DERRY — The weather was bad enough, many many residents said the situation was made worse when town crews did a sub-par job maintaining the roads.
Numerous residents said Derry failed to take good care of its roads following the storm and the bitter temperatures that followed last week, with a lot of them taking to social media to say more should have been done.
Tracy Beaton said it was a major effort to get home last Friday.
She got off a clear highway at week’s end, but drove home to Derry and found slush-covered, slippery roads.
“I thought Saturday, at least, would be better, but no and I ended up sliding everywhere,” she said.
April Dobrinski lives near South Range Elementary School and said plow sightings were few and far between.
“I think we saw a plow twice during the storm,” she said.
Dobrinski lives in a community where buses travel often and travel remained difficult Monday morning.
Many said they thought Derry schools should have opened later Monday.
“I work at Derry Village School and we had a lot of parents complaining,” she said.
Dobrinski said school staff had difficult getting up the road into the school. There were also reports of buses sliding on local hills.
But town officials maintained the best job was done, considering the type of storm.
“I think we did a great job,” said Larry Budreau, acting town administrator.
Budreau said Monday he had received only one email complaint about the condition of Derry’s roads.
Temperatures dipping dangerously low made the job more difficult for road crews, he said.
“When it’s that cold, it creates a challenge for snow removal,” he said. “When it’s under 15 degrees, road salt has no effect.”
The Derry News Facebook page was burning up all weekend and Monday with complaints specifically about Derry roads.
This comment by Holly Bourque Monday was typical of people’s complaints.
“The roads in Derry were terrible. My road was not even plowed and the main roads were plowed carelessly,” she wrote. “I drove into Londonderry and the roads were clear to the pavement, so obviously it can be done.”
Public Works director Michael Fowler said he was aware people had concerns, but said the town did all it could to keep ahead of the storm and treat the roads.
The drastic temperatures did not help, he said, keeping ice packs forming on roads intact.
“The warmer storms, the salt is effective, (not with) colder storms,” Fowler said. “That’s a key point for residents to be aware of.”
Fowler said his crews worked long and hard to keep up with the snowfall. Some sand was spread over portions of Derry’s 165 miles of roads.
Fowler said there are different standards for different roads and how towns choose to care for them. Every storm is also unique.
“Every storm has its own factors,” he said. “That’s the nature of this chemistry.”
Fowler said he appreciated residents’ concerns about why more sand isn’t spread on Derry’s roads, but said decisions were made on how to properly care for the roads and his crews did the best they could.
Trista Kort wrote on Facebook that she contacted Fowler via email to voice concerns and was told Derry’s roadwork was up to par with surrounding communities.
But many roads were still covered in compacted snow into Saturday, Kort said. Town officials told her sanding and salting had been done.
“Which is not true in the Warner Hill Road area,” Kort said.
Fowler said he understood residents’ concerns, but wanted people to understand everything that goes into tackling a major snowstorm.
“We try to address things the best we can,” he said, “and we want to try and meet residents’ high expectations and, for the most part, we do. We fought the storm and we stayed with it.”
Several town councilors reported complaints from residents were few and far between.
“Out of 34,000 residents, I heard only one complaint from a Derry resident,” Town Councilor Mark Osborne said. “For me, the roads were quite navigable.”
Stacy Williams echoed the sentiments of many others with this post Monday.
“I understand back roads being a bit treacherous, but when you’re on a main road and can immediately tell when you’ve crossed town lines based solely on the road conditions, there’s a problem,” she wrote.
Town Councilor Tom Cardon said he had also not heard any major complaints about the road conditions in town.
Town Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said she did hear feedback from a few residents, who wished more had been done to keep the slush level down.
“Some said it would have been nice if they came around a second time to clean up all the slush,” she said. “But we do the best we can.”
As of Monday, Town Councilor Neil Wetherbee said he had heard from only one unhappy constituent.
He said it’s often a delicate balancing act for Public Works at this time of year when they have to work within a budget while taking into consideration how much of the winter remains.
“The fact that we’re barely out of December and have had a rough go of it in terms of storms so far is cause for concern,” he said, “given that we can get snow into April around here.”
The most recent storm was quite challenging, Wetherbee said, in terms of length and temperature.
“Throwing down road treatments that are likely to be largely ineffective is not fiscally or environmentally prudent,” he said.
Wetherbee said once the snow ended, he also found it difficult to navigate, not only in Derry but in neighboring towns as well.
“I found conditions to be less than ideal almost everywhere I went,” he said. “ I think we need to be realistic. We live in New Hampshire. Expecting bare roads and speed limit driving after nearly a foot of snow over 30 hours, accompanied and followed by subzero temperatures, is just not realistic.”